Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


Cool picture

From here.

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Why is there no love for the American system of government?

As Barack Obama gets inaugurated and conservatives stew (I heard a complaint of a conservative this morning that it was the "tackiest" Inauguration ever because everyone was selling so much Obama crap - which I agree with, but I think it just shows how desperate people are to believe that their president isn't a scumbag), I wonder why our system of government isn't emulated more often around the world. A while back, I read in the book about Napoleon that the French, with "vivid memories of political pretensions by the old regime's high courts of parlements ruled out the American solution of vesting such authority in the Supreme Court." (page 28) This was part of a longer discussion of how the French were setting up their government, and although it's from 200 years ago, it still seems that countries setting up their democracies model them after the British form rather than the American. I'm not sure why that is.

The British have a parliamentary system of government, and many ex-British colonies follow this lead, but it seems like Iraq has set one up as well. I understand Canada, India, Australia, and other Commonwealth countries following the British model, but it seems weird that no other country follows the American model (at least none that I know of). In the British system, the prime minister is selected after the elections, when it's determined which party has the most members. The leader of that party becomes the prime minister. That's all well and good, but what's strange about the parliamentary system is that elections are held at any time. In Britain, they have to occur at least every five years, but there's no specific time for one. There's also no reason for a prime minister to ever give up his or her job. As long as his or her party wins the majority in the election, the prime minister could, conceivably, continue forever. I know this never happens, but there's no reason it couldn't. I wonder if this is a reason it's popular with nascent democracies - the prime minister can feel just like a dictator, and it's easier to shift from "prime minister for a long time" to "prime minister for life!"

I know there's a lot more to the British parliamentary system, but it seems a bit more unstable than ours. Not in Britain, of course, but they've been tinkering with it for 800 years. If the government can "fail" at any time and new elections be called, what's to stop despots from taking advantage of that? I know, a despot can take advantage of any system, but whenever you read about democracies falling apart, it starts with a prime minister getting a "no confidence" vote and the government needing a re-org. In the chaos, someone moves in and takes over. Yet countries keep trying it. I wonder why they don't look to the American model.

I admit that the American model isn't perfect. There's probably not enough direct democracy, although given the opinions of some people, that might be a good thing. But we always know when we have elections, and we usually know when there will be a new head of state. To all those people who bitched and moaned about what a wannabe dictator George Bush was, I would point out that we knew, with absolute certainty, that on 20 January 2009, we'd have a new president. It wasn't up for debate. Now, you can argue that the policies he put in place will be hard to undo (whether they should or not is something others can argue about), but the fact is, in 2006 or 2003 or whenever you started hating Bush, you knew that, at the latest, his last day in office would be 20 January 2009. There's no vote of no confidence in our system that destroys a government just because the opposition party is pissy about something. That may suck (I'm sure several Democrats would have liked to bring down the Bush government and install one of their own), but in the long run, it's fine. What did the Democrats do instead? They campaigned for Congress in 2006, when the elections were scheduled, won back the majority, and then got back the presidency in 2008, when elections were scheduled. And now, just like every four or eight years, we have a peaceful transfer of power. No fuss, no muss. If the Republicans don't like it, they have the 2010 and 2012 elections to gear up for. In the meantime, they can try to sway voters and even other members of Congress with more moderate policies. Or they can wait for Obama and the Democrats to screw up. It's not perfect.

It just seems to me that the American system is more stable than the British system. I get that the United States often doesn't have a stellar reputation overseas, but neither does Great Britain, so why is their system so much more attractive than ours? The United States, after all, has been the most stable government in the world for 226 years, and that's saying something. I'm not saying that countries shouldn't adopt the parliamentary system, because the Brits have made it work, but I often wonder why our republican system isn't more portable. Any ideas?

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What have we learned - Championship Game Weekend

I didn't watch a lot of football this weekend. The first half of the Eagles game disgusted me, so I really didn't feel like watching the second half. At halftime Krys needed to take Mia to the emergency room (thankfully, there was nothing seriously wrong with her, but with her, we need to be cautious), so I wasn't really in the mood to watch even if the Eagles had been winning. I still wasn't in the mood to watch the AFC game, and she wasn't back from the hospital yet and I was hanging out with Norah, so that was that. But we can still glean some nuggets of information from yesterday's games!

Arizona 32, Philadelphia 25. Before I rant about how crappy the Eagles were, let's consider why the NFL needs full-time referees. In the first half, with the score 14-3, the Eagles had 3rd-and-6 at the Arizona 15 or so. McNabb throws a pass to a wide receiver (Baskett, I think, but I'm not sure) who is clearly being held by the defender. No call, no first down, and the Eagles have to kick a field goal. With 2 minutes left, the Eagles have one last chance to win on 4th down, and a pass to Kevin Curtis is incomplete. Rod Hood not only knocked Curtis down, but as he was falling, grabbed Curtis' leg. No call, no first down, Arizona basically runs out the clock. Just before the Cardinals' third touchdown, Asante Samuel was called for pass interference on the goal line to give Arizona a first down. That was definitely pass interference, so I'm just wondering why neither of the other two penalties were called. If the Eagles score a touchdown after the first penalty, it's 29-24 late in the game instead of 25-24. Then, if Arizona scores, the Eagles need only a field goal to tie. With a first down late in the game, they probably score. Troy Aikman, imbecile that he is, said that neither play should have been called, even though they were both close. That's bullshit. Both were clear penalties. I don't have a problem with refs missing tough calls, but both of the plays were in space with no one but the two principals involved, and both were E-A-S-Y to make. Our hometown newspaper, even as it was glossing over the play (it wouldn't do to imply that the Cards didn't win completely fairly), wrote "Rod Hood was all over Kevin Curtis," which, 30 years ago, would have been fine. In today's NFL, like it or not, it's a penalty.

Of course, the Eagles shot themselves in the foot enough times as well that they can't blame the refs. For some reason, they decided to skip the game film of the Arizona-Carolina game and therefore missed the fact that you might want to cover Larry Fitzgerald! Seriously, Philly, what the hell? On the long touchdown pass that made it 14-3, there was no way J. J. Arrington was running with the ball. The instant he took the pitch, he ran backward away from the line of scrimmage, and not very fast. Either he's throwing the ball himself or he's going to chuck it back to Warner. Yet the Eagles bit, leaving Fitzgerald one-on-one with a guy who's not even their best cover guy. If Asante Samuel or Sheldon Brown or even Lito Sheppard had been covering Fitzgerald on the play, maybe I could have forgiven it. But they weren't, and that stupidity killed the Eagles. On the third touchdown, the guy covering Fitzgerald let him get a free release off the line of scrimmage. The ball is at the 1-yard line, and Fitzgerald is either going to run a slant or a fade. Either route depends a lot on timing, but the cover guy (Brown, I think), doesn't jam him. If Fitzgerald can't get off the line right away, the ball is overthrown. Lots of teams don't jam receivers enough, especially when they're playing a team that relies on timing routes, like the Cardinals do. What the hell?

And then there's Jim Johnson's defensive strategy. I love Jim Johnson, don't get me wrong. But sometimes he does inexplicable things. On Thanksgiving, the Eagles didn't blitz a lot. They made Warner hold onto the ball and look around, and Warner tends to get happy feet if he has to hold onto the ball a long time, and that leads to sacks and fumbles. So why change? The Eagles blitzed too much, and Warner loves that, because he's best when he takes short drops and zips the ball out of there. He's difficult to blitz because of that. I was surprised the Eagles didn't just play tight coverage and let their front four get pressure, because that's what worked the first time. Why didn't they? Beats me.

McNabb didn't have a great game, but he's not the reason they lost. Early on he threw some bad passes, but neither of his two turnovers led to scores and he (apparently) made some wonderful throws in the second half. I put this almost all on the defense - you can't let the best player beat you, and they simply didn't cover Fitzgerald well enough (granted, it's hard to cover him, but it didn't appear like they tried anything new after seeing him destroy the Panthers, which is just stupid). When the Eagles finally took a lead, Arizona went right down the field for the winning points. So although I'm sure lots of Philadelphia fans are baying for McNabb's blood right now, they should be wondering why the defense couldn't keep it together in the biggest game of the season. I've said this before and I'll say it again - McNabb should be the quarterback of the Eagles as long as he wants to be. If anyone has to go of the Reid-McNabb alliance, it should be the coach. His refusal to commit to the run game always bites the Eagles in the ass. I don't think he should go, either, but if one of them has to, it should be Andy.

Eagles fans who are bitching about the QB or coach should remember the Ray Rhodes Era. Or the Richie Kotite Era. Or the Marion Campbell Era. Or even the Buddy Ryan Era (good teams, never won a playoff game). Yes, the Eagles still don't have a Super Bowl win. But back in those days, you could stop paying attention to football in early November, if not sooner. It's January, and we're still watching the Eagles play football. So that's pretty nice, even if it doesn't lead to the promised land.

Oh, as for the Cardinals? The Steelers better figure out how to cover Larry Fitzgerald, or they just might become the "worst" team (by record) to win a Super Bowl.

DeSean Jackson update! 6 catches for 92 yards and 1 touchdown; 1 punt return for 13 yards.
Turnovers: Eagles 3, Cardinals 1. Turnovers = loss? Actually, no, but I'll go by the stats. One Philly turnover led to the Arizona one ... on the same play (interception by Arizona, fumble back to Philly); a fumble led to no points; the third turnover was on the last play of the game. So I'll give Arizona the "win," but it's odd that four turnovers were so inconsequential in a game of this magnitude. 1-0.

Pittsburgh 23, Baltimore 14. Apparently there was a game last night. I turned it on in time to see the Ravens score to make it 16-14, and then I happened to see Troy Polamalu return his interception for a touchdown. He's good.
Turnovers: Ravens 4, Steelers 1. Turnovers = loss? Probably. 2-0.

And so order is restored in the NFL, as the home teams both win the Championship Games. On the one hand, I'd like to see the Cardinals win the Super Bowl, and they have a slim chance. Pittsburgh also likes to blitz, and if they try it like the Eagles did, Fitzgerald or Boldin (let's not forget him, as he'll probably be completely healthy by them) will be able to get open for big plays. The Steelers don't have a great offense, so a few big plays might do them in - as long as Arizona doesn't turn the ball over. On the other hand, the Bidwills, who own the Cardinals, are scum of the earth, especially the old man, William. Bidwill is the guy who refuses to share the 1925 title with the Pottsville Maroons, even though his family retroactively claimed the crown when they had no right to. This is a guy who is quoted in today's newspaper whining about the Eagles' defeat of the Cardinals in the 1948 NFL Championship Game. He says, "We had beaten the five times in a row. Then the blizzard game came. It should have been move to Monday night, but the commissioner wouldn't change it." First, Bidwill, it was 60 years ago. Let it go! Second, the commissioner at the time asked both teams (which includes the Cardinals) whether they wanted to play or postpone it. Both teams wanted to play. It's a little late to be bitching about it when you had your chance back then, isn't it? (Bidwill didn't own the team back then, but he was involved with running it.) So I just want Bidwill to be thwarted once again in his quest, because if history is any indication, he's so cheap he won't play Kurt Warner (a free agent) to come back and he won't re-negotiate Anquan Boldin's contract, and next year the team will suck again.

It doesn't really matter, because I'm not going to watch the Super Bowl. Once the Eagles leave the scene, football has no interest for me. I'm not that grumpy, because after the Eagles lost to Baltimore and fell to 5-5-1, I didn't expect them to make the playoffs, so anything they did in the postseason was gravy. I hope they are a better team next year, and I hope Andy Reid gets a big back to pound the middle so he doesn't get his quarterback and his other running back killed. And would it kill them to throw more screen passes? Sheesh.

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Regarding last night's episode of My Name Is Earl

I don't want to live in a world in which a game show called Estrada Or Nada, in which guests challenge Erik Estrada to do things better than they can do (including playing the violin, chopping sushi, sewing, and chopping wood), exists only as a joke on My Name Is Earl. Someone has to make it happen for reals!

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What I've been reading

The Will by Reed Arvin. 2000, 325 pages, Scribner.

This is a legal thriller in the potboiling vein of John Grisham, with some very important differences: Grisham can barely string two simple sentences together in a coherent fashion (seriously, the man's prose is awful), while Arvin can actually, you know, write, and this book is much less a thriller than the Grisham books I've read. It stars a lawyer, Henry Mathews, who must go through the same kind of journey we see in several Grisham books (I've only read one, but I've seen the movies): from ambitious and greedy lawyer to conscience-ridden lawyer, but again, it's more nuanced than what you might expect. It's not a great book, by any means, but it's entertaining because Arvin keeps the book out of the courtroom, for the most part, and concentrates instead on the characters in the story.

Henry is a hot-shot Chicago lawyer who one night receives a phone call from a man whose father has died. Henry is the executor of the will, so he must head off to rural Kansas to execute the will. We learn that it's his home town, and his father, an idealistic but dirt poor lawyer, actually handled the will, but died before his client. The dead man was the richest man around, and when he leaves his fortune to the local kook instead of his ambitious and greedy son, the shit hits the fan. Henry gets pulled further and further into the reasons why the old man left his fortune to the crazy guy, and of course, this puts his future as an up-and-coming lawyer in jeopardy, not to mention his relationship with an up-and-coming financial expert.

Fret not, though, because Amanda Ashton, an idealistic government worker, shows up in Henry's life, poking around at the old man's oil reserves and getting in trouble with a state senator because of it. All of this is connected, of course, and Arvin does a nice job making sure it's not too outlandish and conspiratorial, which would be kind of goofy. It's grubby and messy, like a lot of local politics, and even though there's a bit of danger, the real problems lie with uncovering the past, something Henry wants to do when it concerns his client but not when it comes to himself. His secrets are a bit prosaic, but the development of his character, while predictable (will Henry become a crusader who sees more of the law than a way to make a lot of money - you be the judge!), is handled well.

Although not on par with great psychological drama, Arvin does a fine job peeling back the layers of secrecy surrounding these characters and making it feel like he's doing it naturally and in the course of the investigation. It's always interesting reading books in which people are hiding things and the truth has to come out. Henry has to make choices about whose lives he wants to destroy, and they don't always deserve it. This makes the book better than your standard legal thriller, because Arvin does a good job making the characters real, so when the truth comes out, it has a bit more bite to it.

The Will isn't a great book, but it's entertaining. It's not a bad way to spend a few days, which is more than you can say for a lot of novels.

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Ricardo Montalban has died

He was 88. He started in American movies in 1946, but didn't really become a household name, of course, until 1978, when he started playing Mr. Roarke on Fantasy Island. What the hell was up with Roarke, anyway? Was he Satan? Montalban, a fine Catholic, probably wouldn't have dug that. But still. Of course, for nerds the world over, he'll always be Khaaan!

Let's hope he's resting in peace on "soft Corinthian leather."

Link: Chrysler Cordoba commercial with Ricardo Montalbán

Man, they don't make awesome commercials like that anymore, do they?

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What have we learned - Divisional Playoff Weekend

What have we learned? DON'T FREAKIN' TURN THE FREAKIN' BALL OVER!!!!!!

Philadelphia 23, New York Giants 11.
This was an interesting game, because after the opening kickoff, the Eagles were in control of this game, completely. The Giants were held to a field goal, Asante Samuel intercepted a pass, the Eagles scored a touchdown, and it was all over. The Giants held a third-quarter lead, true, but it always seemed like Philly was going to win ... as long as they didn't do something stupid. They didn't, and they won. McNabb threw two interceptions, but one was somewhat deep in New York territory and didn't hurt, and the other led to a field goal. The Eagles' defense is playing extremely well, and although I wish their offense would be a bit better, they're still looking pretty good. And how cool were those two fourth-down stops? Pretty damned cool, if you ask me.
DeSean Jackson update! 4 catches for 81 yards; 1 punt return for 0 yards.
Turnovers: Giants 3, Eagles 2. Turnovers = loss? Pretty much. 1-0.

Baltimore 13, Tennessee 10.
So the delay-of-game penalty that wasn't called was a really shitty non-call, but Tennessee should probably try holding onto the ball near the goal line. Seriously, Titans, hold onto the damned ball! And Baltimore played like crap on offense, and if one freakin' team could hold onto the ball around them, they'll put up no fight whatsoever. Of course, that's easier said than done, but still - the Ravens got 9 first downs. Sheesh. The Titans also committed 12 penalties - at home. Jeez, Tennessee. What a crappy game. Well, okay, it was a good defensive game, but man, those offenses were annoying.
Turnovers: Titans 3, Ravens 0. Turnovers = loss? You bet. 2-0.

Arizona 33, Carolina 13.
I'm not sure why the Panthers stopped running when they were only down 17-7, but Jake Delhomme has always been overrated as a passer, and he was not going to bring them back by chucking it all over the field. Pundits are expressing shock that the Arizona defense is playing so well, but all year they've been a solid team at creating turnovers, so it's not surprising they're getting it done in the postseason. It's mildly surprising they're playing so well against the run, but when they get ahead, they play well, like any defense. I was a bit, well, astonished that the Panthers tried to single or even double cover Larry Fitzgerald. Put about five guys on him, Carolina! If Steve Breaston beats you, oh well. If Fitzgerald beats you, you're a bunch of idiots. Now the Cardinals become the first 4 seed to host a Championship Game. Wow. Be careful what you wish for, Arizona - home teams haven't exactly been money in these playoffs, and the Eagles, remember, lost two Championship Games in a row earlier in the decade.
Turnovers: Panthers 6, Cardinals 1. Turnovers = loss? Extremely so. 3-0.

Pittsburgh 35, San Diego 24.
The only thing you need to know about this game is that in the third quarter, San Diego ran one offensive play. ONE! And it was a pass that was intercepted. Pittsburgh only scored one touchdown in the quarter, but come on - you can't win by running one play in a quarter.
Turnovers: Chargers 2, Steelers 0. Turnovers = loss? Yes. 4-0.

So we get an AFC Championship Game in which the two teams might not combine for 10 points, and an NFC Championship Game that's a rematch of those classic 1947 and 1948 NFL Championship Games. Who can forget those? I'm mildly confident about the Eagles' chances, although they are favored, so the Cardinals can continue to play the "no respect" card and come out angry. They do play very well at home, but as I wrote above, the Eagles had a serious home field advantage in 2002 and 2003 but cracked under the pressure. The Cardinals, even if they're not favored by the national media, will have to deal with the expectations of a fan base that has been salivating for this moment for 20 years. The Eagles, meanwhile, are still playing with house money, to a degree. I just hope Philadelphia doesn't take the Cardinals lightly like Carolina obviously did. The Eagles beat the Cardinals 48-20, but it was in Philadelphia on a short week, and Arizona is playing much better these days. It should be fun, though - at least more fun than the slugfest in Pittsburgh will be.


The only reason I'll miss our current president

Ah, Dana Perino. Why must you leave us?

Can't the Messiah convince her that he's right and that she should switch sides? That's what the old Messiah did, after all. Can't he use his hope-and-change persuasive powers to show her the error of her ways? Instead, he chose this guy. Look, I'm sure Robert Gibbs is a swell guy. He yelled at Sean Hannity, which is always nice. But is he as dreamy as Ms. Perino? I think not!

Oh, Dana. You can spread the president's lies to us anytime. They're so much sweeter when you tell them to us!

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All abooooooardddd!

The Saturday after Christmas the entire clan (our family, my parents, and my sister's family; ten people in all) went northward to Clarkdale, Arizona, in the beautiful Verde Valley. There we boarded the Verde Canyon Railroad for an afternoon of sightseeing. We had wanted to go on the train for a while, and so did my mom, so she made the arrangements to go. We'll probably have to go back in the autumn to see the leaves changing color, but it was a fun time nonetheless.

The train has indoor and outdoor cars, so you can stand outside and check out the scenery. The indoor cars have windows, of course, but it's still hard to see what is passing by. The temperature up north was much cooler than here in the Basin, but at least it wasn't raining. I spent a great deal of the trip north from Clarkdale to Perkinsville (a ghost ranch where the train stops and turns around) outside, mainly because I wanted to see the sights. Krys spent most of the trip inside hanging out with Mia, and they had a grand time. It was a very nice afternoon. I have written more about our journey (and our Christmas holiday in general) over at the kids' blog, mainly because it was all about them for the most part. But I figured I'd post some of the more scenic pictures here. So enjoy the Verde River Valley!

Check out my natty hat!

That's fashion, baby!

Most of everything else we did over the holiday dealt with the children, so I have pictures of them. I did get this nifty tool for Christmas:

How manly am I?????

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What have we learned - Wild Card Weekend

Yes, it's my third football post in a row! Fret not, though. My family is gone, and once again I have nothing to do but write on the Internet. But first, let's check out the weekend in games of the oblate spheroid!

Philadelphia 26, Minnesota 14. Despite the fact that this game was 16-14 into the fourth quarter, I never really felt that the Minnesota offense was going to put something together. That's how good the Eagles' defense was. Philadelphia's offense might have gacked something up and given the Vikings a cheap win, but there was no way that the Vikings were going to drive the length of the field. They gave up one big play on Adrian Peterson's touchdown run, but otherwise, they didn't do anything. Of course, at halftime, the Eagles offense had gone one full game (the second half of the Dallas game and the first half of this one) without scoring a touchdown, during which time the defense had scored three, and that upset me a bit, but at least they were moving the ball, and they managed to score at the end. The way the defense is playing, however, I have some confidence that they can beat the Giants this weekend. The offense has to play better, though. Go Eagles!
DeSean Jackson update! 1 rush for 2 yards; 1 catch for 34 yards; 5 punt returns for 109 yards, including one huge 62-yarder.
Turnovers: Eagles 2, Vikings 2. Turnovers = loss? It's a wash.

Arizona 30, Atlanta 24. Peter King at Sports Illustrated wrote that this game was the only "snoozer" of the weekend, which puzzled me. There was a 27-9 beatdown by the Ravens, and this one wasn't decided until two minutes left. What the hell, King? Anyway, no one was giving the Cardinals much of a chance, but they were playing at home and the Falcons had a rookie quarterback - not a good mix. Sure, the Cardinals weren't playing well, but their run defense wasn't as bad as everyone thought, and Kurt Warner knows how to dissect a defense. Arizona also decided to run the ball, which is always nice. And they kept trying to anticipate the snap count and get onto Matt Ryan, which led to a few offsides penalties but also led to the game-winning touchdown on a fumble recovery. I bet the Cardinals will take that! I doubt if the Cardinals are going to win at Carolina next week, but it would be nice.
Turnovers: Falcons 3, Cardinals 1. Turnovers = loss? You bet. 1-0.

San Diego 23, Indianapolis 17. I went out on Saturday night so I didn't see the game, but apparently the Chargers' punter was the most valuable player. That's always nice to see. Three of the last four years, the Colts have been one-and-done in the playoffs. Of course, the other year they won the Super Bowl, but that's kind of interesting. People have been whining about the overtime rules and how the Colts didn't get the ball, but they were 12-4 playing an 8-8 team (even if it was in San Diego). They shouldn't even have been in OT, for crying out loud! I'm perversely glad that the Colts lost, because I always think they're overrated. Yes, I suck. Peyton Manning makes funny commercials, though.
Turnovers: Chargers 2, Colts 0. Turnovers = loss? I guess not. 1-1.

Baltimore 27, Miami 9. Man, this was a boring game. Miami turned the ball over a lot, which was out of character but not surprising when Baltimore is playing defense. The Ravens' offense did very little but didn't have to, and it got ugly relatively early. The Dolphins got a bad matchup in this game, because the Ravens are a disciplined defense that don't fall for Miami's fancy formations. Nice season by the Dolphins, but they were outmatched. Unfortunately, because I don't like the Ravens either. Oh well.
Turnovers: Dolphins 5, Ravens 1. Turnovers = loss? Most definitely. 2-1.

As for college football ... the less said, the better. Penn State had to play a perfect game to beat a good team on what might as well be their home field (what a joke that is), and they didn't. Oh well. Meanwhile, Utah is the only unbeaten team in Division 1-A, and yet pundits are ranting that they don't deserve a piece of the national championship. Yeah, that's bullshit. Someone today said that Oklahoma was beating good teams by 30 and 40 points. Well, in many games, the Sooners were throwing the ball desperately with their starting QB, Sam Bradford, still in the game, in order to run up the score. Screw you, Sooners! God, we need a playoff. Stupid Nittany Lions.

Next week: Divisional Playoffs! Go, Eagles!

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